Tokyo Godfathers is the best alternative take on family Christmas films

Are there any Christmas movies that aren’t about family in some shape or form? I’m sure there must be, but they normally are, especially the best ones. It’s just quite a natural thing to focus on, given that it’s meant to be the time of year that families come together, for better or worse. For the most part a lot of classics do focus on the nuclear family, as if there could be any other structure, which can make some films feel a bit samey in places. But there’s one film in particular that I think expertly captures the spirit of Christmas through the lens of an unconventional, seldom seen on screen found family; Satoshi Kon’s penultimate feature film, Tokyo Godfathers.

This 2003 anime film doesn’t follow your typical Christmas film beats in a few distinctive ways. First of all, the central three characters are homeless, something we still rarely see in film and television even now. Surprisingly this is probably the least dated aspect, as while the three of them, the teenage runaway Miyuki, alcoholic Gin, and trans woman Hana, are treated poorly by several characters in the film, it’s clearly meant to be sympathetic towards them; none of these people that treat our protagonists poorly are viewed as morally correct.

The dated aspects come in relation to Hana, who as I mentioned is a trans woman, repeatedly the victim of transphobia and homophobia, which is sometimes presented in a difficult to watch but critical manner, other times just kind of being plain offensive. Yet, for a film that’s 20 years old now, it also has a trans character who’s complicated, garish, loud, loveable, caring, and imperfect, which I appreciate more than a portrayal that seeks to be perfect.

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